Identifying mushrooms is exciting. There is nothing quite like the feeling of stumbling upon a mushroom bringing them in from the field unto the table for identification. If you happen to be collecting mushrooms , during or especially after a significant rainfall, you should count your blessings! There will be mushrooms everywhere.
To be on the safer side however, it is advisable to choose mushrooms you feel you have a reasonable chance of identifying.
The best time to collect mushrooms is during the late summer and throughout fall. Though some delicious and sought after species are often found in springtime in their preferred habitats. Mushrooms have evolved along with plants and animals as integral parts of complex ecosystems. A majority of the most delicious edible wild mushrooms grow in association with specific types of trees.
An essential tip is to identify the trees that you find them growing with or on. This can be beneficial in helping you locate more in the future and also help you to better understand the whole picture.
Here are a few tree-mushroom associations that can give you a rough idea of what to expect when identifying mushrooms.
- Pine: King boletus (Boletus edulis), Hedgehog mushroom (Dentinum repandum), Masutake (Armillaria ponderosa)
- Oak: Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), Blewits (Clitocybe nuda).
- Western Hemlock: Admirable Boletus (Boletus mirabilis).
- Aspen, Poplar and Willow: Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), and Honey mushrooms (Armillariella mellea)
Vital Tips for Identifying Mushrooms
Mushrooms are reproductive bodies or “fruits” called fungus. The main body of the fungus is in the form of white, thread-like structures called mycelium and the structures of a typical mushroom consist of a cap, gills and a stalk.
The gills are the reproductive portions of the mushroom, and they produce the spores. Spores are reproductive units in the form of single cells.
Mushrooms growing in the wild are found in many different kinds of locations, including:
- Woodlands, forests
- Pastures and meadows
- Burned areas
- Lawns and gardens, various other urban and suburban areas
- Dung and manure piles
- Snow banks
- And even in sandy deserts!
Identifying mushrooms growing in the wild is a process that requires careful observation, as well as a good mushroom identification field guide or other detailed resources. Here are some details you might want to remember :
- Use more than one reference source in your identification process and see if they agree
- Don’t depend solely on other people’s sayings such as “If it has a brown cap and grows under a pine tree, it is okay” because these are not always standard and may vary.
- Take your time to check and re-check the features and details when practicing wild mushroom identification
- Be kind enough to collect only a quarter to at most half of the mushrooms you find, as they feed other animals in the area and need a chance to reproduce themselves
In identifying mushrooms you will need a pocket knife in order to dig up the bases of mushrooms and some waxed paper bag on stand by to store your mushrooms. Waxed paper sandwich bags are the best mushroom holders. If you cannot get waxed paper bags, brown paper sandwich bags are the next-best option.
Plastic bags are not a good idea since mushrooms tend to sweat, especially in hot weather and you are likely to have a wet mess on your hands if you put them in plastic bags.
The Sharpie is for taking notes; though you can easily use a pen and a notepad, I have found that writing directly on the waxed paper bags is the most convenient method especially when it comes to sorting out later, indicated notes must correspond to respective mushrooms.
You can’t go mushroom hunting without insect protection and a good insect repellent can help take care of that .0